Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

THE LEECH WOMAN


THE LEECH WOMAN (1960). Edward Dein.

"I know you advertised for old women, but the one in the waiting room looks like she's mummified!"

"There's only one trouble with running away -- you always meet yourself when you get there."

June Talbot (Coleen Gray) is a wealthy woman married to an uncaring endocrinologist, Paul (Phillip Terry of Junior G-Men and Hold That Kiss), who can't stand the sight of her now that she's grown older. Both of them have their differing hopes rekindled when they meet 142-year-old Mala (Estelle Hemsley), an ancient native woman who claims that her tribe back in Africa knows the secret of eternal youth. When she travels back home for a treatment, the Talbots accompany her and discover that hormones from the pineal gland are combined with the properties of a certain orchid to create a magical elixir. [Mala is given a very good speech about how men can be distinguished and revered in old age, but old women are treated with indifference and contempt -- yet in her tribe young men are sacrificed so that old women can have one last night of youth and beauty before death!] June manages to run off with the formula, but discovers she has to kill again and again to retain her good looks and freshness. This is basically an E.C. comics story stretched to feature length and quite amusing on that level. Gray is no Bette Davis, but she holds her own as the tormented anti-heroine. She was also in The Phantom Planet and did a lot of TV work. Phillip Terry was one of Joan Crawford's ex-husbands. Grant Williams of The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Monolith Monsters plays June's very handsome lawyer, who dumps his girlfriend [Gloria Talbott of The Cyclops] for June's "niece" when she comes back from Africa all young and sexy. [After the magical transformation, June is perfectly made up -- what a Max Factor miracle! Her "old age" make up is well done.] Estelle Hemsley had only a few credits; she was actually 73 when she made this picture. Kim Hamilton, who plays Mala as a young woman, has had a fairly busy career ever since. John Van Dreelen plays a guide and victim of June's and is very effective; he was a very busy television actor.

Verdict: Lurid and cheap but also entertaining. **1/2.

2 comments:

dj Buddy Beaverhausen said...

Not as good as "The Wasp Woman," but tacky, low-budget fun in any case.

William said...

Anything with Grant Williams in it can't be all bad!